Basing House is critically important to English history, and here is just one era from its long story…
Basing House was developed in 1531, as a new palace for William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, treasurer to King Edward VI. At its peak, the extended house had over 360 rooms and was the largest privately owned house in England.
The extension was so huge, it looked like a separate palace tacked onto the side of the castle! They were joined by a small postern gate (which was later to be the site’s downfall during the civil war) to give servants access to the visitors.
The House was graced by Edward VI in 1552. The great barn, which still stands today, was completed in 1534. This was visited by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, although we doubt they helped bring in the harvest! Philip II of Spain and Queen Mary I honeymooned there in 1554, after their marriage in nearby Winchester. Elizabeth I came to the site in 1560, and had such a great time she remarked, she would have married the Marquess if he had been but younger! In 1601, she was back again and trusted the Marquess to look after the visiting French ambassador Duke de Biron. King James of Scotland visited in 1603 as well as Anne of Denmark later that year.
All these visits started to cost the marquess a lot of money! In fact, it was the family’s constant spending on guests, maintenance and lavish lifestyles, which led to its disrepair. By the time of the 5thMarquess, the house was abandoned. It had extensive dry rot, smashed windows and damp from being unheated (we can sympathise!). It was only the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, which caused it to be shored up and used as a garrison for Royalist troops.
Basing House grounds and ruins have continued to be a draw for visitors in modern times. Locals regaled us with an event in the 1980s, when the feasting spirit of Basing House was revived. Ron Cox, 89, was on the first parish council in Old Basing, and he remembers a fundraiser in the barn. 330 guests paid 10 guineas each to don medieval costume and banquet in the 450-year-old building. The organisers bought £600 worth of mead, wine and beer, and had to sleep on site with it alongside a policeman! By the end of the feast many revellers were taken home in a hay cart!
Join in more merriment 9 - 10 July 22 for Tudor Weekend at Basing House. Experience life living as a Tudor with re-enactors, demonstrations, live music and dancing!
This article was written and researched by Alex Moore, Visitor and Learning Experience Manager for Milestones and Basing House